via China takes control of Zim economy 03/11/2013 by Asahi.com
UNDER the iron grip of President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s economy lies in ruins with allegations of rampant human rights abuses.
Yet, the country once known as Africa’s “bread basket” is attracting Chinese firms in ever-growing numbers.
Western companies left Zimbabwe long ago, unable to tolerate the policies of the now 89-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980.
China is keen to exploit the country’s vast mineral resources and restore its ability to be a leading producer of crops.
Mugabe is no darling of the West. But his administration welcomes the growing Chinese interest, even though ordinary citizens are clearly wary.
The farming town of Chinhoyi is located roughly 100 kilometres northwest of Harare. Fields operated by local farmers flank the main road. The harvest is finished, the dry season has begun and the grass is withered and flattened.
Suddenly, a vast tract of verdant farmland comes into view. Countless automatic sprinklers shower the fields with water. The sight is reminiscent of the days when Zimbabwe was a model of agricultural ingenuity for the rest of Africa.
But it is the red flag of China that flies over this land these days. Smartly attired Chinese in suits come and go.
The land was a white-owned farm that was seized by the Mugabe administration. A Chinese company has operated it for around three years under a contract with the Zimbabwean government.
According to a manager there, the 5,000-hectare farm grows wheat, soybeans, tobacco and other crops that are harvested twice a year. There are plans to expand the farm to 8,000 hectares in the near future. The manager said 20 Chinese and 500 Zimbabweans work the farm.
In addition to direct management, Chinese companies are sprouting across the country, drawing up contracts with individual local farmers.
One top official has a contract with a Chinese company to sell agricultural produce from 200 hectares of formerly white-owned farmland now in his possession. His workers use fertilizer and pesticide provided at no cost by the company. He sells the harvested tobacco wholesale to the company.
“Chinese companies pay good money,” the official said. “Of course I welcome Japanese companies, too, but I wonder whether they’ll do anything for me that the Chinese don’t do already.”